16 BIT SESSIONS #11: ANALOG – It’s Too Bad Disco’s Dead

16 BIT SESSIONS is where James tries to figure out all this Mega Drive music business by covering songs and trying out different sounds. This time, it’s a cover of It’s Too Bad Disco’s Dead by the first True New Wave band of the 21st Century, ANALOG.

Here’s the original!

ANALOG is a New Wave band from Toronto that recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of their first live performance. As someone who knows how tough it is to keep projects and friendships and musical relationships exciting for ANY amount of time, 10 years is crazy and excellent and it’s something to celebrate.

I know ANALOG through one half of its members, Rob Lee. Rob’s a great guy who has a whole lot of talent in many different sides of the music industry – performance, filming, photography, DJ sets. The man needs a big kitchen to house the many pies he has his fingers in.

Recently I was asked to guest host my favourite night in Toronto, NINTENDO KNIGHTS, with my good friend Vee. Nintendo Knights is a monthly live show/video game tournament held at Handlebar (first Thursday of every month!) and creator/usual host Mike Reynolds was on his honeymoon, so we filled in. It was exciting, but it was short notice and securing live acts is not the easiest thing to do at the best of times! Rob very kindly offered to perform a special DJ set for us after the tournament. It was a blast and I’m very grateful for the fact that he stepped up at short notice and saved us. The night was a huge amount of fun and I’d do something like that again in a heartbeat.

ANALOG is a super catchy band at all times so I had no lack of material to choose from! Since it’s an anniversary year however, I thought I’d delve into their back catalogue a bit. Also I wanted a simple, fun, catchy number to close out this round of covers. I upped the BPM a little to make it feel like some kind of Kirby racing level. I didn’t go too crazy with the sounds this time, wanting to keep it to some standard and recognisable voices; ANALOG’s sound is all about melody, and their synth patches are huge and arresting enough that if I pushed the sounds too much on this, it wouldn’t be so much a 16 bit covers as it would be just a regular cover of the song. I think it’s ended up sounding pretty fun and it makes for a driving closing track.

So that’s it for the first round of 16 BIT SESSIONS!

I have no idea who’s been listening or if anyone reads these, but if you HAVE been doing either of those things then thank you – I hope within these 11 weirdo covers you’ve found something to tap your foot to.

I’m still going to make 16 bit covers of local bands and hopefully with some regularity, but now that the Horseshoe show is upon us this Monday and we have a 2015 full of promise ahead of us, I really want to dive into the programming for our next original full-band release. I have an exciting idea for an album that I need to shake out of my head!

I’ll post the compilation (plus some bonus tracks) on Bandcamp in the next day or two! I have a huge list of bands I wanna cover but if you have any suggestions for bands for round 2, e-mail me at villainestmusic@gmail.com!

16 BIT SESSIONS #10: Die Mannequin – Sucker Punch

16 BIT SESSIONS is where James tries to figure out all this Mega Drive music business by covering songs and trying out different sounds. This time, it’s a cover of Sucker Punch by Die Mannequin from Toronto.

MANDATORY PLUG UP TOP: Holy crap you guys our next show is on Monday! It’s free! It’s at the Horseshoe Tavern. You should come!

Die Mannequin is a band I first heard of in 2013 when the band I play guitar and sing backing for, SuXess, was asked to support at the Horseshoe Tavern when they played in April. We were excited to book the show, but I – especially still being fairly new to Canada and Canadian rock music – had only heard a couple of tracks and felt the need to delve into their catalogue further. Almost immediately their music appealed – kickass frontwoman, loud production, killer songs like Candide and Do It Or Die. Honestly, Candide’s chorus is one of my absolute favourites.

The show came during a difficult part of my Canadian tenure – I was battling the immigration system at the cost of a lot of my patience and sanity, I was overweight from the stress and I had just returned from a whirlwind of a trip back home for my wonderful sister’s wedding that involved visiting something like 5 cities in 6 days. But the gig was a pleasure, Care Failure, Anthony and the rest of Die Mannequin were nothing but lovely and accommodating in the brief exchanges we shared and the crowd were one of the best I’ve ever played to. Amid the uncertainty and anxiety of immigration – would we get kicked out back to England? Was it worth the fight? – I felt very lucky, and it helped to carry me through. And now look at me! Back to normal, whatever the fuck that means, and able to deliver these weirdo covers to you guys. Worth it.

Neon Zero marks a stylistic change towards a more electronic sound and as a result is one of my favourite albums of 2014 – in part because of how all-in and crazy this new direction is. Some purist punk/hard rock fans on YouTube or cried sellout because there’s electronics involved, but that’s what those types of fans do for fun. And while I’ve heard this song a fair amount on The Edge, calling this direction a sellout is madness. It feels like a very honest foray into synthesizers that, for the most part, works great and is catchy as fuck. Since we’re a band that also likes to mix the more raw sounds of rock music with electronics and such, this move is super encouraging!

This song almost feels structured like a video game soundtrack – there’s movements and riffs that repeat, but always in different combinations. The vocal line has some brilliant harmonies that soar in square wave form. I got to use my favourite low-end bass voices again, I got to experiment with sidechains for the rap verses and those “dist guitar” presets sound excellent when it kicks in to the really heavy bridge towards the end.

Here’s the original:

That’s TEN COVERS DONE. I was gonna be done so I could release them as a free album on Bandcamp in time for the Horseshoe show. But when I was programming this one I found another I wanna do before I stop. QUANTITY OVER QUALITY. That’s how it works, right?

16 BIT SESSIONS #9: Dragon Sound – Friends

16 BIT SESSIONS is where James tries to figure out all this Mega Drive music business by covering songs and trying out different sounds. This time, it’s a cover of Friends by the fictional band Dragon Sound from one of the best bad movies of all time, Miami Connection.

Up top promo: our Horseshoe Tavern show is next Monday! Check the SHOWS page for the amazing poster designed by Kai Salminen and all the details you could ever need.

Here is the wonderful, wonderful original:

I don’t know when or why or how I decided I love bad movies. Of course I remember watching The Room for the first time, of course. Who wouldn’t? There’s something irresistible about the earnestness of terrible film-making, as Greg Sestero testifies in his book The Disaster Artist (a must read for any fan of bad movies). Maybe I connect to it on a certain level because my main musical instincts are to make commercial-suicide 90s console chiptune throwback music and I like the idea of people committing to terrible ideas beyond all sense, lack of talent and reason. Maybe there’s a connection between crazy amazing rock & roll and bad movies – Wild Zero, Neon Maniacs, the soundtracks to Astron 6 movies like Manborg and The Editor. Even John Carpenter’s worst movies have great soundtracks. Though even typing this out I’m seeing how blurred the lines between bad and great are. I’ve definitely cited some great movies here that probably don’t fit into the bad-good category.

Maybe that’s looking too far into things and it’s just trash and trash is great. I’m happy with that.

I love Miami Connection because it’s equally as earnest and well-meaning as it is shambolic and utterly insane. It revolves around a diverse group of well-meaning tae kwon do orphan-musicians who end up as one side of a gang war with a motorcycle ninja clan because they took another band’s gig for some reason. I want to print every frame of this film, pile it up and hug it. The letter scene. The dad who’s 10 years younger than his son. The toe grabbing. All of it.

It helps that the music is legitimately fuckin’ class. Friends and Against The Ninja not only sum up the Very Deep Themes of the film, they’re infinitely catchy and you’ll hum them for days after watching the film. Angelo Janotti, mulleted guitar hero of Dragon Sound, wrote or co-wrote both tracks, which explains a bunch – while the film is cast with Grandmaster YK Kim’s students to (a) save money and (b) show off Tae Kwon Do as a martial art, Janotti is completely inept at Tae Kwon Do in the film, barely musters a kick and gets himself very kidnapped. You’ve got the looks and the sound, Angelo! That’s all that matters.

I think this is pretty much what a Dragon Sound video game would sound like. I’d love to see Miami Connection as a scrolling beat ’em up like Violent Storm, Double Dragon or my eternal favourite, Streets of Rage 2. Somebody with more talent than me make that happen, please! We’ll make the music!

I’ve been a little swamped due to our upcoming show at the Horseshoe Tavern so most of the sounds here are presets or samples I already had ready to go. The lead voice is a mix of xylophone and string presets, and there’s a bunch of my all-time favourite sawtooth wave and bells and keys presets covering the instruments. The bass is a standard electric bass sound that may actually be from the Yamaha FB-01, but I’ve mixed in some of my own sampled low-end bass sounds to fill things out a bit. The heavily-compressed guitar strumming is done by square waves with – eek – a bit of Ableton ping-pong delay.

Overall, I hope this makes you want to don a sleeveless red shirt, learn Tae Kwon Do and kick some ninja butt. Until next time, which may be the last regular update while I start writing and programming our next original project!


16 BIT SESSIONS #8: Devin Townsend – Kingdom

16 BIT SESSIONS is where James tries to figure out all this Mega Drive music business by covering songs and trying out different sounds. This time, it’s a cover of Kingdom by the ludicrously diverse and brilliant Devin Townsend.

Promo up top: our show at The Horseshoe Tavern is coming up – it’s no cover and Kai Salminen designed this incredible poster for it!

The concept of having a favourite musician is inherently weird. There are so many diverse genres and ways of going about creating music that the whole idea of picking one approach is bogus. That’s why it doesn’t make sense to be bitter about the success of your peers, or to get all territorial about what’s genuine or not (“hey, that’s not real metal!” might be the most useless sentence on Earth). This is especially true now there’s so much out there and almost no barrier to making or hearing whatever you want to. We’re all on the same team, maaaaaaaaaaaan. Am I blowing your mind with my original thinking yet? Shut up Harding and get to the good stuff!

But with that said, if you insisted I had to pick my favourite musician – and why wouldn’t you? – I’d probably say Devin Townsend.

I was first introduced to DT’s music by my housemate Duncan in what must have been 2006, because it was the album Synchestra, which had just been released. Synchestra‘s utter dedication to whichever weird direction it veered in (hoedowns, polka, ‘tallica style heavy metal, poppy ambience) hooked me. When I sat down and listened with headphones, there was a low frequency surge in the buildup of Let It Roll that, when I heard it properly for the first time, was one of those moments in music that I’ll never forget.

Since then, he’s released more albums than I care to count and his discography contains a huge amount of contenders for my favourite albums of all time. I’d list them, but I’d be listing almost all of them and we wanna get to the cover. There’s an odd cult of personality on the internet that holds DT up to be an infallible genius, but for me what appeals is the opposite – his music is human and flawed and that’s a big part of what makes it great.

Devin Townsend’s been a huge influence on how I approach music, embrace its absurdity and have fun with it – playing, recording, performing – while staying true to the kind of things you need to say (in my case not much, but still). Not all of his music speaks to me as much as some, but its diversity is pretty staggering – SYL and Deconstruction and Ziltoid came from the same hands as Ghost, Casualties of Cool, Terria and Ki, and that’s crazy. Anyone who watches SYL’s insane Download set can find almost the exact moment that I decided, on that field, that I wanted to have fun when I was on stage instead of brood and be Super Important.

In 2010 Natasha and I traveled from England to Finland to see the DTP perform the Ziltoid album in full at Tuska – an uncharacteristic risk for me at the time as I was strangely afraid of traveling, and the fun I had in Helsinki probably went some way to building the confidence I needed to throw caution to the wind and move to Canada, where we now live and I make this weird music for fun. I met him once when he played a DJ set after a gig at Nottingham Rock City. It was only a brief “thanks” and a terrible picture but it means a bunch to me.


So a DT cover was a given. Kingdom was a challenge! The production style here is so laced with walls of sound and reverb that trying to distill it to dry notes is almost comically impossible. Some of the guitar chugs are so hidden behind the wall that I’m pretty sure, even after listening to this song 1000 times in countless versions, I’ve fucked up a lot of the arrangement.

But I think the bombastic spirit of the song is here. The drums are relentless, the guitar picking emulation sounds on point for the most part and that middle section with the arpeggios is something I’d happily listen to on loop. Overall, I think this one’s a keeper! And I think the ridiculous nature of trying to cover a song as huge as Kingdom using dry production is, at the very least, appropriate for the source material.

The approach wasn’t dissimilar to before – GenMDM sampling via FMDrive, Drum Rack and some samples. My favourite part is the choir at the start, which has been cribbed from Ristar voice samples. I altered the arrangement for it a bit so that the first choral phrase repeats and works with the second, because this is what always came to my head when hearing this song and I think it sounds cool. That tiny star guy singing his tiny star heart out. I’m also getting more confident with the bass and how to build a bigger sound. The lead is a mix of a saw wave and a square wave, panned separately and with a higher square wave octave coming in when the mix needs a boost. That alone would probably screw up the Sega hardware, but I’m working my way to being able to compose within the console’s limits!

Here’s the original – a re-recorded version from Epicloud:

Only 2 more covers to go until I have 10 and I can call this a covers album! I think I know what one of them’s gonna be. I wanna try another local band for number 9. Any recommendations?


16 BIT SESSIONS is where James tries to figure out all this Mega Drive music business by covering songs and trying out different sounds. This time, it’s a cover of Carpet by now-defunct but still-great Toronto punk band THIGHS.

Up top: We’re still gearing up for our show at the Horseshoe Tavern on March 16th!


Here’s the original!

I first heard of THIGHS through Jari, whose other band Motor Goat was being produced by one of the members of THIGHS, Brendan Howlett. Shortly after, we asked Brendan to produce us, and that is how you ended up with our amazing coloured vinyl single in your hands (What do you mean, you don’t own it? BUY NOW AND RIGHT THAT WRONG). He also subbed in on bass for our vinyl release party at Handlebar and slayed.

Brendan is a bit of a Toronto music renaissance man. It’s true! He builds custom guitars. He’s part of COFFEE GUITAR, the new coffee shop at Lansdowne where you can also get your guitar serviced. He produces at StuStuStudio. That he does all of these things well while being a genuinely good dude is both impressive and inspiring. Renaissance man!!

THIGHS has split up now and I didn’t get to see them play live, but by all accounts it was chaos and it sounds like a blast. Their music is frantic, challenging (in a good way) and it sounds free in as unpretentious a way as I can use that word. They just put out their last EP and it is as excellent as it is free to download.

It wasn’t easy to find a track I could do justice to and I started a couple where I got stumped (5/4 time aaaaaagh my brain), but I was determined to succeed and this one, Carpet, works pretty well for a quick cover attempt. It’s a song from their self titled album that drives itself fast, crashes into the bushes and then crawls after you.

My favourite part of this cover is the distorted bass that comes in during the last groove on the right channel. That sound came from running an FMdrive preset through my GENMDM Mega Drive. Because FMDrive’s parameters don’t match up 100% with GENMDM and I have such a terrible step converter that I think my European Mega Drive works strangely with the midi data anyway due to a voltage issue, the sound came out sounding nothing like how it was supposed to, and I love it. It’s got all of this grinding, high distortion to it that totally works for something like this. It’s only a couple of repeated notes but it makes it interesting.

The vocals on this one, like Fucked Up, were difficult to replicate in a meaningful way. I first started out with a sample of one of the Streets of Rage 3 characters fighting or dying and pitched it. However, because the frequency shifts so much in the sample it didn’t work out on its own. That sampler is still in there, but since THIGHS has somewhat of a discernible melody where Fucked Up felt purely percussive, I had to get some melody in there without compromising the sense of chaos – it needs to shriek! So I added some quick, shambolic arpeggiators to fuck things up, add the basic melody and make it sound chaotic. Does it work? I HAVE NO IDEA, but it’s at least one new way to try and inject some personality into the vocal side of things. I’m still learning here! That is the point, I think, depending on which side of my winter blues post last week you fall on.

So to summarise:

Bonus pre-16 bit sessions cover: a while back I covered Motor Goat’s single WOAH WOAH, which Brendan also produced. Listen!!

16 BIT SESSIONS #6: Robyn – Dancing On My Own

16 BIT SESSIONS is where James tries to figure out all this Mega Drive music business by covering songs and trying out different sounds. This time, it’s a cover of megahit Dancing On My Own by Swedish pop royalty and agreed-upon ruler of the universe Robyn.


Here we go. 16 bit cover number 6. I think I might be starting to go a little crazy.

Why am I making these? Depending on when you ask me it’s either an exercise to help me better learn my craft (if you can call making bleeps a craft, and after 4 beers I could probably reach those levels of pretension), winter madness (our first planned show of 2015 fell through after I’d nixed some alternative plans, so I want to keep productive and keep creating until our next show in March) or just compulsion – I enjoy it, so why justify it?

Why am I publishing them? I’m not sure if there’s an audience for them or whether people as a whole are enjoying them. I have anxiety (and I could stop this sentence right there) about putting things out into the world – often sharing things on the internet feels like you’re trying to sell something. And we do have a single out, shows to promote. But I don’t want to bombard people. We don’t have a huge fanbase and so after a while it can feel like you’re just harassing friends. So that’s not why I’m doing this, and I hope I never get to the point where that is why I do something.

A few very kind people have told me they’re enjoying the series, I enjoy making them and when I’ve pressed “post” I enjoy the fact that I’ve made something and felt able to share it. That’s reason enough! Onwards!

So Robyn is a Swedish bundle of pure brilliance. She’s been around forever. You almost definitely know this song. It’s one of the best pure pop songs ever. It’s bittersweet, it stomps, it’s simple, it’s beautiful. Some people swear they can’t stand pop music. That’s fine, but they’re missing out on some simple joys in life like this.

I’m cheating a bit with this one – we’ve played this live a handful of times and so I had the skeleton of it ready to go, I just had to flesh it out. We played this at the Bovine Sex Club during Pride 2014 as part of a night hosted by the Toronto Gaymers gay gaming society. The rest of the bill, unbeknownst to us, was drag queen punk. It was unbelievable and so much fun, and when we busted out this track in the middle of our set the Bovine came alive. People danced, people sang along, people connected. That’s what this song does and that’s why I love it.

This is one of the least pure chip songs so far in this series, in that it’s mostly samples and VSTs, and not all dedicated Sega Genesis stuff. There’s a VST called Monomate in use, as well as some Little Scale sample packs, FM Drive (of course – that bass!) and a fair amount of reverb and chorus. I didn’t want to limit this one – I wanted to see if I could make a track that could plausibly fit into the Robyn production style. I think it works. Maybe it’s just an amazing song and it’s impossible to fuck it up.

Jari, Gill and I went to see Robyn at the end of the Summer last year on her tour with Royksopp. Neighbour to G&J and general great person Lauren was kind enough to get us up on the VIP riser and we sang our brains out and it was amazing. It was so great I almost feel guilty for having that good of a time; this is the kind of English brain you’re dealing with. Ha.

Here’s the original.

All together now


16 BIT SESSIONS #5: Fucked Up – Queen of Hearts

16 BIT SESSIONS is where James tries to figure out all this Mega Drive music business by covering songs and trying out different sounds. This time, it’s a cover of Queen of Hearts by a rad Toronto band called Fucked Up.

Quick reminder up top about our upcoming no-cover show on 16th March at the Horseshoe Tavern!

How do you make a Sega Genesis song out of hardcore vocals? The short answer is that you can’t. But it’s fun to try! Anyone who tells you screaming isn’t a musical practice is full of it – it’s chromatic, for sure. It’s impossible to pin individual notes to it – and for this song I tried. But musicality is there in frequencies – a thousand notes at once making a unique kind of white noise. It’s pitched and dynamic. Add good lyrics, rhythm and passion and you’ve got something special.

But I don’t have words to make a Sega Genesis cover. It’s technically possible to make a Mega Drive sing words – and the entire point of this series is to help me get better at my own craft – that’s a whole other ball game, and one I’m not ready for yet. I tried the noise channel of the Genesis chip and it was too monosyllabic, too far in the other direction.

I solved it the only way I know how – by finding the rhythm and filling it with samples of people either throwing punches or getting the shit kicked into them from games such as Streets of Rage, Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter 2. It came out as a kind of Simlish-sounding language and it takes a little getting used to but it makes me laugh and I kinda love it.

There’s a lot to say and that has been said about Fucked Up, but the most important thing is that they’re a great band. They’re not afraid of anything – they’ll create whatever they want, and as someone who’s decided at 27 to spend a good deal of his free time (and lose a bit of his money) making Mega Drive songs, these artists are important. That the album this track opens, David Comes To Life, is a concept album that deals with concept albums as a theme and is set in my home country of England is a bonus – especially as I start to experiment with narrative forms of songwriting myself and explore how I can make that work for us. But at the core of it, Fucked Up is a great band and this is a great song. The soaring chorus line, heard in this cover in square wave form, is one of the best hooks of the last five years.

The quick nature of these covers means I’m always making things that are less than perfect – I would have liked to add some more punch to the bass if I could, and there was a temptation there to make this cover much more abrasive – the Genesis is capable of some brutal, grinding sounds befitting of a punk rock band. But time limits and forcing myself to be less precious about my output is a positive thing – I found the balance of this track was best when it plays less like a metallic juggernaut and more like an unexpectedly badass kids’ game. Sort of like a grey-sky platformer, or if Mortal Kombat was held on Yoshi’s Island. Admit it – you’d play that game!

Here’s the original!

16 BIT SESSIONS #4: John Carpenter – Escape From New York

16 BIT SESSIONS is where James tries to figure out all this Mega Drive music business by covering songs and trying out different sounds. This time, it’s a cover of the theme for Escape From New York by John Carpenter.

Quick bit of housekeeping up top: VILLAINEST make our Horseshoe Tavern debut on Monday 16th MarchNo cover. It’s going to be a lot of fun and you should come if you’re able to! I can tell you no lies.


I had to do a John Carpenter track. Had to. For one, he’s got a new album out and it’s one of the best full albums I’ve heard in a long time. For another, he’s been a huge influence over my tastes and choices in deciding to make lo-fi synthesizer-based music, so it’s only fitting.

My love for John Carpenter movies doesn’t actually go back that far. My love of movies in general isn’t that old, though I’ve made up for that in spades in recent years to the point where it’s yet another passion of mine that probably makes my family think I’m a bit weird. And, especially since coming to Canada, there’s legitimately nothing I enjoy better than to spend an evening with friends watching trash.

I saw Assault on Precinct 13 first around late 2007; I was in Sheffield, spending my nights watching movies and drinking a surprisingly varied selection of beers. In the weeks and months after, every time my housemates picked up a guitar they’d play the Assault theme. It drove me crazy, but seeds were sown and when I later came to discover They Live and the Escape films and all the good and bad and brilliant stuff John Carpenter has to offer I found in them a group of films and soundtracks that really speak to me on a kind of wonderful, trashy level.

For all that’s been written about his technique, I don’t think J.C. is too meticulous and from recent interviews I think he’d agree. The Assault soundtrack was recorded in a day and as such was necessarily sparse, though of course that works in its favour. Other times, of course, he records stuff that is insane and gets reviews that say “too many heavy metal guitar solos”, which is of course crazy talk because there can never be too many heavy metal guitar solos.

Like many of my favourite musicians and composers, J.C. has the quality of being able to touch an instrument and immediately create music that sounds uniquely like him. Carpenter’s soundtracks are equally as important as the films themselves. You can notice them immediately, and this theme in particular jumps out a mile. I had to do it. It’s slow, it’s menacing, and it’s ridiculously catchy. The harmonies are pretty weird and sometimes jarring. It’s great.

The Mega Drive is actually pretty well equipped for Carpenter-type sounds! All those super deep bass sounds – there’s no EQ on that! And they’re straight from my console. I can’t really remember too many games making use of the bass frequencies, which is crazy because they sound so good! And that shrill, ridiculous, obnoxious wave that comes out of nowhere towards the end? Oh man do I love that part, such a joy to try and replicate with a limited set of sounds. It’s so high in the mix it jumps you right out of your seat, which should be the point! I’m probably pushing the limits of console plausibility, but I couldn’t resist.

This track doesn’t have the brilliant, moody dynamics that make Carpenter soundtracks so good. In a way, that’s on purpose – I wanted this to sound a bit like the intro screen of a bad movie tie-in game from the 1990s (actually, the Judge Dredd soundtrack there might disprove my bass theory above as it has some fantastic bass sounds). So some of the voices have operators an octave higher than usual, and things don’t really fade in and fade out so much as cut out completely.

There are also way too many layers and, as before, a slight detune/chorus effect of about 10% on two voices to help them sit a little better.

Keen eyes staring at my dumb self in the cover art may note: that’s a bootleg Escape shirt I bagged at Black Market on Queen Street that I was wearing while I finished THIS VERY TRACK. Relevant!

16 BIT SESSIONS #3: Tupper Ware Remix Party – Interstellar Strut

16 BIT SESSIONS is where James tries to figure out all this Mega Drive music business by covering songs and trying out different sounds. This time, it’s a cover of Interstellar Strut by Tupper Ware Remix Party, an electro synth funk band based in Toronto that defies logic.


There’s something I say quite often that sounds pretty naïve whenever I repeat it, but nevertheless is completely true: when I moved to Canada in 2011 I had no idea there’d be so much opportunity to create and to be involved in something as fun as this kind of music. The fact that nights like Nintendo Knights (which I’m co-hosting this Thursday) exist here is part of why I love this city, but then that’s not the point at all – these things are always possible, I just happened to experience a few wake-up calls while I was here.

One such wake-up call was running into Tupper Ware Remix Party. Stumbling home around 2am with some excellent friends after an evening of responsible partying (I assume), we passed College and Bathurst where, across from Sneak’s, TWRP were doing some kind of hypnotic electronic disco funk busking. It’s exactly as insane as it sounds:

I’m sure I’ll get to the others, but this was one of many metaphorical kicks in the face that I received around the time that helped me realise something – something that, to a lot of people, is super obvious: you can just do whatever the fuck you want with music. Even if it sounds ludicrous or dumb or like there isn’t an audience for it, if it’s what you want to do and you own it then why not? Even the worst scenario that could come of it involves having a great time trying new things.

This all sounds very self-help book, but it’s a philosophy that serves TWRP well. In the past year I’ve caught them twice at the Horseshoe Tavern (where we’ll be making our debut on March 16th), and each time they’ve put on one of the most unique and singularly fun acts I’ve ever seen.

TWRP are the perfect band to cover in the Sega Genesis style – in part because their sound has a lot of that to begin with! The bass sounds are made by experimenting with new sounds out of my GenMDM modded MIDI Genesis (the lower bass register sounds very John Carpenter when you slow it down). The other soundfonts I used, through FMDrive controlling the GenMDM and FMDrive as a VSTi when I wanted it to be more accurate, are mostly adapted from Sonic & Knuckles – especially the Flying Battery Zone. Drums are samples from Sonic 2, though I think that crash cymbal is from Sonic 3. All three games involve blasting through space at some point so it seemed relevant to use ’em as a basis!

No reverb as I wanted to keep this as legit as possible, though for full hey-that’s-not-real-chiptune disclosure for people that want to hate things, I used a very slight detune to make the lead saw wave stand out and I took a shortcut with the crushed square wave on the outro – that’s some ping pong delay in Ableton Live. There’s also at least 2 or 3 voices at certain points that there’s no way the Genesis could handle simultaneously!

TWRP just released an excellent new EP called 2nite! Not to be confused with Rotary Dial’s “Tonight”, which we covered last week and is equally great! 2nite is well worth your time. If I wanted to be timely I should have done a track from 2nite. Maybe next season!

As I mentioned above, I’m co-hosting this month’s Nintendo Knights with Ninjinuity while Mike’s away on honeymoon and I’m excited. SNES tournament followed by a special DJ set by Rob Lee of ANALOG, and throughout the night I’m going to be playing a bunch of chip and electronic music to party to, along with some of these 16 Bit Sessions and some unreleased Villainest material! It’s gonna be great.

16 BIT SESSIONS #2: Rotary Dial – Tonight

16 BIT SESSIONS is where James tries to figure out all this Mega Drive music business by covering songs and trying out different sounds. This time, it’s a cover of Tonight by Rotary Dial, an indie rock band from Toronto.

Rotary Dial are a relatively new band in Toronto, but you wouldn’t know it – they have 2 very accomplished EPs released and play regularly across the city, making friends wherever they go.

Their sound reminds me at times of early Charlotte Hatherley, which is no terrible thing as Grey Will Fade is one of my all-time favourites. I would recommend checking them out if you get the chance; they’re authentic, fun and write very catchy and musically interesting tunes. Jenna is an excellent frontwoman, I met her when I was playing with Badniks (which I still do; look out for a new EP this year!) and I’ve learned a lot from her positive attitude towards music and working with good people – Rotary Dial work closely with folks like this city live, Rad Dude and new collective Launch Party.

One motivation for picking this track to cover is that I wanted to try programming guitars. Programming guitars using FM sounds is hard, man. Those off-the-cuff vibratos and string bends and atonal brilliance that come from being a live human playing a live guitar are impossible to reproduce – especially if you have as little patience as I do. With that said however, I love the pitch-bendy sound of an FM synth trying to replicate lead guitar. It probably takes me back to the early days of trying to write heavy rock songs in Guitar Pro.

This track turned out sounding like a level from Lemmings, which is great. I could listen to that soundtrack all day. All samples used here are instrument presets, because I wanted it to have that lo-fi feel. It probably does a few things that the console couldn’t, but not too much!

Here’s the original song for comparison:

You can, and should, buy Root Beer Floats on Bandcamp and visit their website to keep up with their live schedule.